Facebook launches Facebook Studio for advertisers

Facebook has launched a showcase site of Facebook campaigns, which also features Labs – how-tos and tips. Here you can see what BMW did to support their US Superbowl effort or that great idea by Flair magazine, called Fashion Tag.


The fascination continues

A new report makes a valuable contribution to the debate over who uses social media:

Despite the plateau reached during the last two quarters, Facebook gained 100 million unique visitors per month over the same time last year and now stands at 590 million unique visitors per month. Twitter is the runner-up at 97 million unique visitors. To put Facebook’s Internet presence in perspective, the combineddaily circulation of the Wall Street Journal, USAToday, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, and the New York Post equals only 36% of the average daily unique visitors (19 million) of Facebook. LinkedIn remains stagnant with no growth over the last five quarters and MySpace can claim the most significant trend as it continues its death spiral.

A word of warning from us. These figures don’t include mobile app usage, which is likely to be significant for both Facebook and Twitter. Furthermore it only includes consumers of their website content, not people producing content (active users). A recent report speculated that there are only 20 million Twitter users actually Tweeting regularly. Other points of note, on both Facebook and Twitter, women outnumber men.

Trouble at Twitter

Not a good week for Twitter the last was. Fortune lead with a front page story about operational issues, relatively small user base, boardroom squabbles and more. Biz Stone countered with a personal blog post that did not say much, except for invoking Rocky, and then Silicon Alley Insider chimed in to set the record straight. According to it Twitter was not so much reorganising but organising for the first time. Read all these articles, they are very insightful, but here is just one quote:

It is a firmly held belief inside Twitter’s new regime that its product is too hard to use and far too geared toward people who want to write tweets instead of people who want to read them.

Ebooks are sexy

There are yet more signs of the spectacular growth of ebooks – triple digit in fact – and a big dip in the sales of physical books.

The camera in your pocket that remembers everywhere you’ve been

Techcrunch reports that the iPhone 4 is going to be the most popular camera on Flickr. This, less than a year after its launch, is remarkable.

Researchers have found a very dodgy iPhone log file with records of your exact position and time stamps, reports the Guardian. To add insult to injury it copies this information to your computer and other iOS devices. Suspicious spouses everywhere will rejoice. The researchers have created an app that allows you to view the data on the file.


Hip to be Square

Jack Dorsey, the guy who came up with the concept of Twitter, has another venture. It’s called Square and it allows anybody with an iPhone or iPad to collect electronic payments via credit and debit cards. Now Apple has done a deal with Square and will be featuring their product in their Stores and Online. One other neat feature about Square is that, like with Paypal, you do not need a Merchant Bank account.

Groupon goes for the checkin

We have it on good authority that Groupon is absolutely terrified of Facebook Places. They see it as a way through which Facebook could undermine their group buying service. So it should not come as a surprise that Groupon this week bought Pelago – a company that has built location checkin apps in the past. RWW reckons the marriage of Groupon and Pelago could be a Foursquare killer. We doubt it.

Have the best engineers of a generation wasted their time?

A great article asks whether our greatest minds are spending their time trying to figure out how to make more people click on ads. Great reading matter for your contemplation over the weekend.

Tech Insight of the week

Data visualisation is all the rage. This week’s tech post is a fun experiment we did with Instagram and the jQuery Subway Maps plugin. We plotted some Instagram users’ checkins in the Silicon Roundabout as Subway Lines.

jQuery subway

There’s lots of talk about using data-visualisation in journalism and blogging. Well there is an new JQuery plugin that helps you generate data as a New York sub way style map. In our experience it is a little time consuming to use, but if you have the right data set it can get really interesting.

We took a few people (Represented as lines) that took checked-in Instagram photos in places (A list of start-ups and other popular venues in the area – the stations) around the Silicon Roundabout area of London. What you will notice is that Moo HQ is the two places where these users overlap the most.

Click on the venue names to see pics. Enjoy.

What happens if you let a classical composer loose on the Internet?

Eric Whitacre is such a composer, and he managed to take the creative process to an entirely new level. This week Whitacre premiered a new piece called Virtual Choir 2.0 – Sleep, a major feat in co-creation and crowdsourcing.

Based on an experiment he did a few years ago, which in turn was inspired by a fan video on YouTube, Whitacre posted a video of himself conducting one of his pieces and invited singers from around the world to post their contributions, again on YouTube.

The selected submissions got cut together in one, big crowdsourced video. The 3D-work on it isn’t to our minimal tastes, and the music leaves us cold.

But hey, de gustibus non disputandum est. The fact that he managed to integrate no less than 2,052 performances from 1,752 singers in 58 countries is simply massive.

What’s more: a nice addition is the Facebook page that Whitacre created, to give the singers a place to share their sometimes heartfelt testimonials about this social creative project.

Whitacre was invited to do a TED talk about his project back in March, where he explains a bit more.


We've told you before about Datasift, the UK-based start up that does wonderful things with Twitter data. Well they have just done a deal with Twitter that brings their augmented Tweets and data filters to developers large and small. RWW waxed lyrical:

Want a feed of negative Tweets written by C-level execs about any of 10,000 keywords? Trivial! Basic level service, Halstead says! Want just the Tweets that fit those criteria and are from the North Eastern United States? That you'll have to pay a little extra for. The possibilities are staggering.

How can they do this? Datasift augments Twitter data, for example with data from LinkedIn, sentiment analysis and services like PeerIndex and Klout. Only problem is, as we pointed out before, location data is scarce.

By default Tweets don't have any, and most people have not switched it on. What excites us in particular is location, location, location. But by our measure, only 2-3 Tweets per minute are currently location-enabled in the whole of London. And many of these are tweets generated by Foursquare & Instagram. Still, that's better than December, when there was 1 Tweet per minute.

Still, at $0.30 per hour for more than 10,000 filters, Datasift should make all techies salivate. And, they also offer – Amazon-style – to store your data for you. Nice one.

In similar vein Twitter is reported to be in talks with Bottlenose, a stealth start-up not unlike Datasift, but focusing on augmented Tweets and filtering for end users.


Android grows and grows and grows

It's been coming, but Android is now officially the biggest smartphone OS in the States. In the last 3 months its market share has grown by no less than 7%, thus overtaking – no, flying by – RIM/Blackberry.

Obviously that comes with certain consequences for developers that want to reach the masses. And as VC guru Fred Wilson points out in his blog post, that number will only become bigger when you take into account the developing world, because of Android's lower price point.

Mobile usage in Africa

On that note, The Atlantic reports this week that Africa has passed Western Europe in the number of mobile connections. While the number for Western Europe went up by less than one percent, connections in Africa increased by 20% year-on-year.

The elastic network

Last week we dissed Color, the $41 million US 'photo-sharing' app. It turns out there might be a lot more to Color than meets the eye. We wrote about the service and the quest to build the elastic network.


Looking for location

On the topic of location. Foursquare growth is accelerating. They now stand at 8 million registered users, adding a million peeps in about a month.

But Instagram is stealing some of their limelight. They grew from nothing to 3 million users in 6 months. A better start than Foursquare had. And remember, it is a service only available to iPhone users!

Toyota withdraws Jailbreak theme

Android might be more popular, but Apple still wields some serious brand power. Two months ago Toyota tried to appeal to the ever-growing iPhone jailbraking community by developing a special theme, only available for download through the jailbreak app store Cydia.

Even though jailbreaking your phone is no longer considered illegal (at least according to the US Library of Congress), Apple ordered Toyota to remove the campaign. Toyota duly obliged.


The non-value of Influencers

Let's throw a little spanner in the works, shall we? Through his research at Columbia University, network theory scientist Duncan Watts established that the role of the Influencers in creating a buzz around a product is highly overrated. FastCompany has written a hefty piece about it, which is definitely worth your time. One teaser quote:

"If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one–and if it isn't, then almost no one can," Watts concludes. To succeed with a new product, it's less a matter of finding the perfect hipster to infect and more a matter of gauging the public's mood.

Twitter ready to launch Branded Pages

Rumour has it that Twitter is developing a special kind of profile page for businesses, similar to a Facebook Brand Page. 

Seen the very different dynamic of Twitter and Facebook, it'll be interesting to see what features they would offer to brands.

Facebook Comments

One interesting implementation of bringing the social graph onto your own web presence are allowing people to comment through Facebook. Tech blog Techcrunch caused a bit of a stir when they implemented it a while ago.

Now two bloggers have done a before-and-after analysis to see how it affected site engagement on Techcrunch. While it caused a 50% drop in amount of comments and a small drop in ReTweets, the google buzzing increased by 30%.

They also say that TechCrunch has claimed the referrals from Facebook to their site has skyrocketed.


LinkedIn does a Facebook

Looks like our comments about LinkedIn at our SMWF talk last week ("they're just not that social, are they?") were a bit premature. This week they launched a new platform and RWW explains the significance:

"The platform, though, isn't just for developers. LinkedIn is offering an entire suite of plugins to bring all of this content to your website. Even better, it's making it as easy as the click of a button and it could offer some serious competition to Facebook's Open Graph on sites that cater to the career-minded."

Engage your fans to add value

Here's an interesting use-case on how to use Social Media in a simple, cheap way to add value to your physical product.

To celebrate the release of the 10th anniversary edition of the award-winning sci-fi novel 'American Gods', author Neil Gaiman will be taking over the Twitter account of sci-fi website SFX. For one hour, fans will be able to Tweet Neil their questions and the best ones will actually be included in the special edition print version of the book.

Calling it 'Publishing History' is a tad grandiose, but given the hardcore fanbase, this is bound to be a success. 

Creative of the week – Elliott Kember

Believe it or not, but there are still companies that ban their staff from Twitter. How can they live? But creative technologist and API wizard Elliott Kimber has come to the rescue. He's built a Twitter client that looks just like an Excel sheet. Read More »


Tech insight of the Week – Location Check-In Problems & Solutions

Location-based social networks have been around for almost as long as Facebook and Twitter, but has yet to make the break into mainstream status. What's keeping them? Read More »

Ancient transcontinental seafarers did it with a sextant. The American Indians did it with smoke signals. Pigeons just do it.

In 2007 we did it with Loopt and Brightkite. Today we’re doing it with Latitude, Gowalla, and Foursquare.

The Checkin is King. Or is it?


There is a problem. Take Foursquare for instance. They are the undisputed leader of location, but don’t even come close to the user numbers social giants Facebook and Twitter boast. Both Twitter and Facebook have their hand firmly wedged in the location game, but neither seem to be managing much leverage yet.

The year-of-the-mobile was supposed to change all that, but somehow location still seems to struggle to quite break into mainstream status.

The Checkin Problem

So, what’s the problem?

The checkin itself. And it’s bursting to be solved.

1. Incentive

Why do people say something on Facebook? Because they want to say something to a lot of their friends, who are on Facebook. Why do they share news on Twitter? Because they want to share links to lots of people, who happen to be on Twitter.

Why do people check into venues? Maybe they want to earn badges. Maybe they want their friends to know where they are … they’re not quite sure yet, but they keep on checking in, just in case something really cool starts happening soon.

The really funny thing is, Instagram does a much better job of checking people into Foursquare than Foursquare does, usability-wise. Why do people check Instagram pictures into Foursquare venues? Because they want to take pictures in venues, which are on Foursquare.


See? The incentive is direct, and not indirect. It solves a basic, primary need. What we actually need, is a checkin that does not need a checkin. One that happens automatically when you’re in a place (for Privacy Geeks in Tin Foil hats to go ape-shit over).

For example, if Twitter’s location sharing setting could be turned on by default, with a setting to turn it off, they would suddenly be in the location game (which they aren’t at the moment).

2. The Checkout

How do you know someone is not in a venue anymore? On Foursquare, your checkin lasts for 3 hours (unless you check in somewhere else). After that, you’re not in the venue anymore.

That is why, according to Foursquare’s stats, the highest checkin count is at eight in the morning. After 11, few people remember to check in again. Why would they? There’s nothing that reminds them to, and nothing big happened when they checked in at work this morning. They just did it out of habit.

Also, if you quickly pop into your local corner shop for milk, and check in there, you’ll stay checked in four three hours (unless you check in elsewhere within that three hours).

There’s nothing that checks you out as you leave a venue

3. Venue Boundaries


This is the most difficult one to solve. Foursquare uses your phone’s locating technology to determine if you are in or at a venue. This mainly utilizes a GPS device, which works better the more open sky you can see above and around you. This goes against the concept of being in a venue.

Added to this, even if your location can be determined perfectly, venue density can be quite high in places. Think, for instance of venues on different storeys of a tower block, directly above each other, or venues located in different rooms in the same building.

This makes any kind of auto-checkin impossible.

Google’s solution

Latitude recently added the ability to check into their huge database of venues. Right from the start, they are addressing a few checkin issues:

  • If a user is stationary in or at a venue for a certain amount of time, they will send a push notification to the user’s phone, asking them if they want to check in.
  • A user can configure a set of venues to be auto-checked into when the user is there, without them having to fiddle with their phone.
  • A user is checked out of a venue when they leave the venue.

These three points combined deal with the first two of my gripes with checkins, namely Incentive, and The Checkout. Brilliant!

The problem with this solution, of course, is that Google has many assets to protect, one of which happens to be a mobile platform. Thus, they went forth and pushed these exciting new features only to Latitude for Android. What a pity that such a great idea has to be hidden from the largest part of the mobile community.

The Stealth Solution


About two weeks ago, Robert Scoble went on a huge rant about a new iPhone app called Color. Despite the worst user interface in human history, Color managed to raise $41m in funding, so Scoble hoped that “Color has a secret plan we’re not all seeing”

Then, about a week ago, he did a 49-minute interview with the Color team, and came out all gushing, inspired and full of praise.


These guys have actually cracked the third part of the checkin problem. They use audio clips taken from the phone’s microphone, and a light profile sampled through the camera, to determine when users are in the same room.

I’m going to rephrase that. They know when people are in the same room or space, by listening to the sound coming from their phones’ microphones, and looking at the light coming from their phones’ cameras.

Now THAT, is how you do location. Period.

The elastic Network - RAAK

The elastic Network - RAAK

There’s much excitement over the opportunities created by the triangle between social, mobile and location technology. The fuss over the $41 million funded Color app and the meteoric growth of Instagram has added fuel to the fire.

To recap – we noted last week that we too had our doubts about Color, the new ‘photo-sharing’ app:

Its interface is obtuse to the extreme and it has inspired one of the best App Site reviews ever.

And it only does one thing, really. Take a picture, and it will be added to a photo album with any other photos taken by anybody in about 150 meters from yours. No friending required. Besides the fact that it’s a boon for voyeurs and exhibitionists everywhere, we’re a bit unsure whether it deserves 41 million in funding, although some on Quora beg to differ.

Robert Scoble was one of the most vocal ciritics of Color. But then – a few days later – he interviewed the founders including Peter Pham.

And that certainly put Color in a different light. Color has very powerful tech under the hood, if it works like they say it does. And tests by us over the weekend suggested it might.

Fellow RAAKonteur Adriaan Pelzer analyses their tech in this week’s tech post, but suffice to say that Color will be using the phone’s full array of sensors (including the camera, the mic, the compass and GPS) to determine who a user is close to at any given time. At times even when they don’t have a phone signal!

So what do they want to do with this information?

They want to build the ‘elastic network’.

The Color founders claim that Facebook is a service we reserve for our friends and family, but not for the people we work with or interact with on a day-to-day basis. It certainly is true to a big extent. Although Facebook is trying to be more Twitter-like – it is still the domain for your strong ties.

In social networking theory the point is made that we learn most and get more opportunities (jobs, dates) from those people that are not in our direct networks, but from the so-called weak ties. Friends of friends or people in your neigbourhood. These people step in and out of our networks. This is the elastic network and it’s what Color seeks to capitalise on. They want to help us discover who these weak ties are, and then help us keep contact, or not.

It’s Facebook for the other people in your life. Now you could argue that that is kind of what Twitter is. The famous maxim, Facebook is for people you do know that you don’t want to interact with, but that Twitter is the reverse – the network for the people that you don’t know but want to get to know – rings truer than most people would care to admit.

But Twitter is hard work.

Twitter lacks identity information. And Twitter lacks easy conversation pieces, say compared to Instagram. Unlike on Facebook, where you can just be through your profile, where the simple act of friending is content and where news hangs around for you to see it. Or as opposed to Instagram, where you effortlessly snap gorgeous little easily digestible pics. On Twitter it’s different; you have to Tweet. All the time.

You Tweet therefor you are. And being interesting – even in just 140 characters – will always be hard for 80% of the population.

Ah Instagram. The super slick but simple service only available on the iPhone has come from nowhere and now has 3 million users in 6 months.

It originally irritated me that Instagram was generating a glut of – admittedly good looking – photos, using filters. That was compared to the genuinely good but hard-to-do photography you find on Flickr. It was just too easy.

But I missed the point. Instagram is not about photography.

Adding Color to the Royal wedding

Adding Color to the Royal wedding

Instagram is a way to communicate. In an illuminating interview with Techcrunch this week their founders – Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger – called Instagram an entertainment platform:

“By no means do we think of Instagram as just a photo-sharing service,” said Systrom. “It’s something that a lot of people lump us into, but we’d like to think of ourselves as a storytelling service. It’s the way you go out in the world and tell a story about your life, and it’s a new entertainment platform. You can open it up and see a story about what your friends are doing, but also [that] ABC World News is posting photos of someone in Japan reporting on the nuclear crisis. It’s really moving to see those things coming together through images.”

The Color founders must be thinking the same thing. That their app is not about photography, but about communication and sharing. And if that’s what you do and your app achieves scale, building a social network might be achievable. Whether they will succeed will depend on much going right for them.

Color have fixed their complicated UX somewhat in a release earlier this week. But their app needs a critical mass to work.

They hope to use the British Royal Wedding as a test case. One of the things that the Color app claims to be able to do is group people together that are indeed at an event together. Even when the group is very big.

So as the Royal Carriage passes down the Mall, Color will show the pics everybody is taking. But because they are focusing on a particular point, the Royal entourage, Color will figure out who is closest to the action. It will send everybody the pics of the users closest to the action. Magic!

Or at least, that is the claim.

You must know by now that here at RAAK we get very excited by the possibilities that come with a good API. The ability to be creative with technology is what makes us tick.

So imagine our excitement when we stumbled upon Elliott Kember’s website. Elliott is a web developer with a knack for building cool stuff on existing platforms and services.

One project of his that has been doing the round lately is a Twitter client that looks like an Excel sheet. Especially for those poor people at big corporate companies who are not allowed to use Twitter. Simply divine.

Another favourite of ours is Instasha.de, a collection of Instagram images arranged by their colour and shade. It sounds simple, but the colours change gradually, so it makes for this really quite gorgeous wallpaper.

And bonus points for overlaying his website with a game of Snake.

Color – I'll show you mine, if you show me yours

An iPhone app with $41 million in venture funding has caused a storm. Its interface is obtuse to the extreme and it has inspired one of the best App Site reviews ever.

And it only does one thing, really. Take a picture, and it will be added to a photo album with any other photos taken by anybody in about 150 meters from yours. No friending required. Besides the fact that it's a boon for voyeurs and exhibitionists everywhere, we're a bit unsure whether it deserves 41 million in funding, although some on Quora beg to differ.


We Like +1

Google has announced +1 – a way for users to 'Like' (sorry Google) ads and links in Google search. Soon you will be be able +1 pages and other stuff as well. So what happens if you Like, oops +1 something? Techcrunch explains:

"While a big aspect of +1 is sharing results with your social graph (which is still sort of confusing given that Google isn’t an actual social network, so it’s Gmail chat contacts, Reader and Buzz friends, etc) , it is also about using that data in aggregate to highlight better results for everyone. For example, on a result that has been +1′d, you’ll see if any of your friends have +1′d it (in a similar way to the current Social Search look with people’s tiny profile icons under the result itself). But you’ll also see that X number of other people that aren’t in your social circle +1′d it as well."

There's been a lot of cynical comments about +1 online already. We think it's too early to tell, but clearly it is only the first building block in a whole system that Google will roll out.

Interested in trying out +1? Go switch it on here, and remember it's Google.com only.


Little fluffy clouds

A few years ago utopian dreams of a life in cyberspace were replaced by the less prosaic but more practical concept of computing in the cloud. But it's been more talk than do. Until now.

Amazon has just launched Cloud Drive, making it affordable to store your digital life in the Cloud. Nothing new, we hear you early adopters say, we've been using Dropbox for ages. But Cloud Drive has a sexy sibling, called Cloud Player. CNET explains:

"Aside from Amazon's handy cross-platform uploader and downloader utilities and its browser-based tools for viewing, downloading, and streaming your stuff, Amazon is also throwing in a Cloud Player feature within the Amazon MP3 application for Android. Using the free app, you can stream all the music you have stored in the cloud, or download your tracks on the fly for offline playback."

The significance of all this?

"…the introduction of Cloud Drive and its ties into the Amazon MP3 store amount to a big competitive advantage over other music download stores, most notably Apple's iTunes store. Amazon is effectively guaranteeing a backup of your MP3 purchases at no cost, which is a big incentive to go with Amazon over Apple."

If, like us, making stuff gets you even more excited than consuming stuff, then check out this little music revolution in the cloud.

Check In! Snack Out!

Here's a clever campaign that will make it into lots of presentations about location and interactivity.

German dog food brand GranataPet created a simple, but innovative campaign, making the most of the act of checking-in. They set up a billboard advertising their product as a Foursquare venue and when people checked into the ad, it dispensed a bowl of dog food. We like.


Intention Economy

Here at RAAK we regularly quote or link to Tweets. But neither quotes nor links can be favourited, retweeted or followed. So Twitter has launched Web Intents, which will allow you to directly interact with tweets in the context from your webpage. Wouldn't it be even better if you could embed a tweet?

Since email clients can't read Javascript we can't show its full power in our lovely newsletter. But if you step over here, all will become clear.


Etail Economy

If Gail Rebuck, chair and chief executive of The Random House Group in the UK, had tweeted the following qoute, we could have used Twitter Intents for you to favourite it right now. What did she say?

"Ebook sales continue apace – far out-stripping even the most ambitious industry predictions."

Futurebook.net goes on to note that:

"Meanwhile, Markus Dohle, chief executive of the worldwide group, has reported triple-digit-percentage growth in digital-publishing sales, up 250% on the previous year. According to the company, some US fiction titles now have as much as half of their first-weeks sales in the e-book format."

From a Facebook Profile to a Fanpage 

One of the basics of using Facebook for Marketing is setting up a Fanpage rather than a Group or an individual profile. Facebook haven't always been clear about the difference, but have recently made efforts to point businesses into the direction of a Page.

As part of that move, they're now allowing businesses who mistakenly set up an individual page to convert their personal profile to business pages.

But beware: migrating doesn't bring across any of your content and seems to come with quite a few pitfalls.

Drop The Beat

We love brands that don't just advertise their product but use them to do cool stuff. This week Adidas launched Megalizer, a breakdancing version of tapdancing.

The shoe brand has developed trainers fitted with sensors that transmit sounds, each of which can then be controlled through an interface.

If you're interested in the tech part of it, here's  a good article.


It's getting tech hot in here

It's now official: London is becoming a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tech & digital. Exhibit A & B: both Gowalla and Foursquare announced they'll be opening offices here this year.

Exhibit C: in an unparalleled move, ad agency BBH has teamed up with investment group Spark Ventures to create The Black Sheep Fund, a venture capital fund that's looking to invest in mainly UK businesses "that intersect consumers, technology and content".

And last -but quite possibly least- the government launched their StartUp Britain website. Although that last one had a little start-up problem when it suggested budding entrepreneurs create a new logo with US-based crowdsourcing site 99Designs. Ouch!

Twitter is tiny

There could be as little as 20 million active users. But they are super active. And it's growing rapidly. This is the main take away from a very good and facinating study (PDF) on Twitter. These numbers don't surprise us. Twitter is not for everybody. Twitter is where the thought leaders hang out.

On that note: this week we heard about Tweriod, a tool that measures when your Twitter followers are online and tells you when is the best time to tweet.


Creatives of the week – Guardian Staff

This week Radiohead released the physicial copy of their latest album and to promote that, they published a newspaper called The Universal Sigh.

Which got a few smart people at the Guardian thinking. If they get on our turf, we'll get on theirs. So they recorded their version of the band's classic anthem 'Creep' with the editor-in-chief on keyboards. Very Web 2.0.


Tech insight of the Week – jQuery Mobile and the Fall of the Native App

Ever since Apple's hugely unpopular announcement that they're going to claim 30 percent of all developers' in-app revenue, alternative platform talk has been more rife than ever before. jQuery Mobile might just provide the right means to and end for such a platform. Read More »

Ever since Apple’s hugely unpopular announcement that they’re going to claim 30 percent of all developers’ in-app revenue, alternative platform talk has been more rife than ever before.

It certainly looks like Apple has cooked the goose that lays the golden eggs for dinner.

jQuery Mobile

So, what is this alternative platform, exactly?

I mean, you don’t want users to have to jailbreak their iDevices to be able to install the next big serendipity app, right?

Let’s take one step back.

In the blue corner, we have native frameworks and languages. These are vastly different from platform to platform – in other words, once you’ve finished coding an iPhone application, you still have to code a version for Android from scratch, as well as a version for Blackberry, a version for Windows Mobile, and every single update you release, has to be ported to all these platforms.

In the red corner, we have good old HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript. It works the same in all browsers on all devices, with minimal styling adjustments between different platforms. In other words, a mobile web app is easier to build than a traditional desktop website.

This is mainly due to the fact that, on mobile, there is no equivalent to Internet Explorer version 6, 7 and 8. Hallelujah!.

The main trade-off here is native app styling, which is quite design-heavy, and has had a lot of thought and development put into it.

And here jQuery Mobile provides us with a true Silver Bullet.

The jQuery legacy

jQuery, self-branded as the write less, do more javascript library, has all but re-invented Javascript in the past six years. Based on, and improving on a discontinued library called Behaviour, jQuery treats Javascript development as a bag of functions tied to HTML elements. This results in a much more organic development paradigm for the web.

This all sounds pretty technical, but all you need to know is, once you’re used to jQuery, it makes previously complicated things very simple. In a very big way.

jQuery goes mobile

In August 2010, jQuery announced an alpha version of their new library, jQuery Mobile.

Everything jQuery does for the desktop also applies to mobile, so what does jQuery mobile add to the mix?

Styling and behaviour. With some Javascript and CSS magic, jQuery Mobile turns this:
Woos.at unstyled

into this:
Woos.at with jQuery Mobile

without any work on the developer’s part.

Pretty nifty eh?

In the Interim …

While the app store is still alive and well, HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery Mobile can be used in conjunction with platforms like Phonegap or Appcelerator Titanium to actually compile HTML5/jQuery apps down to native apps on most of the main mobile platforms.

Hopefully, before too long, one of these will happen:

  • Someone will start an alternative, hugely adopted HTML5 app store (quite likely)
  • Apple will come to their senses and try and save the app store by including HTML5 apps (less likely)
  • The entire app store paradigm will die, and people will install apps from a variety of third party providers (not very likely at all)

So … while we keep on building HTML5 apps and mincing them into apps through Phonegap, won’t someone please go ahead and start up an HTML5 app store, please? (and make it hugely popular, of course … )